Retired art dealer and author Forrest Fenn has revealed that his famed $3million treasure chest was found in Wyoming – after some people said the ten-year long hunt was a hoax.
In 2010, Fenn published a memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, in which he included a poem with clues to the location of a treasure chest – supposedly filled with $3million of gold and other valuable antique items – he’d hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.
He announced that the treasure had been found on June 6 this year, but had refused to reveal where it was found, saying he had promised the lucky winner he would keep it a secret.
But he has now revealed it was found somewhere in the state of Wyoming, saying he wants to bring closure to those who had hunted for the chest elsewhere.
Art dealer Forrest Fenn (in 2013) revealed that his $3million treasure was tracked down in Wyoming, more than a month after he said it was found by an anonymous treasure hunter
Fenn (pictured with the treasure in June) said he revealed what state he left the treasure chest in to help give closure to people who’d searched in other states
Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have gone on the hunt, covering grounds from New Mexico to Montana.
At least five people died in the process of searching for Fenn’s hidden fortune, KRQE reported.
But not everyone believes the treasure hunt was legitimate, and Fenn has been accused of an elaborate hoax.
Linda Bilyeu – the wife of Randy Bilyeu, who died while looking for the bounty – said she believes the author made up the treasure story for attention.
In June, after Fenn revealed that the treasure was found but before he posted pictures of the cache, she told Westword that she believed Fenn ‘never hid the treasure.’
‘He needed attention and this is how he got it,’ she said. ‘Fenn needed more attention, which is why he said the treasure has been found with “no proof.”‘
Fenn, of Sante Fe, New Mexico, claimed in a blog post last month that the treasure chest had been found finally, but declined to provide more details about who the lucky treasure hunter is or where exactly it was tracked down.
All Fenn said at the time was that the treasure ‘was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago.’
The 89-year-old also wrote that, ‘The treasure chest was found by a man I did not know and had not communicated with since 2018.’
An undated photo of the bronze chest, gold coins and other antiques making up the treasure
Fenn shared this image of the treasure chest from when it was supposedly found in June
More than a month later, Fenn has now decided to throw his fans – and disappointed treasure hunters – a bone by giving them a tiny hint about where the chest was found.
Fenn reiterated that he had promised the lucky finder that he’d keep quiet about the person’s identity and the location of where the 20 pound chest filled with 22 pounds of valuables was found.
‘However, the finder understands how important some closure is for many searchers, so today he agreed that we should reveal that the treasure was found in Wyoming,’ Fenn wrote on July 22.
‘Perhaps today’s announcement will bring some closure to those whose solves were in New Mexico, Colorado, or Montana.’
Fenn also wrote that ‘the treasure had not moved in the 10 years since I left it there on the ground, and walked away’ – implying that he hadn’t even bothered to bury it.
He concluded the post by writing: ‘To all of those who did not find the treasure, we hope that you got some enjoyment from the chase.’
Fenn models a bracelet (left) that had tarnished over the 10 years since he left the treasure in Wyoming. His memoir, with the poem that sparked the treasure hunt, is seen at right
Five people died while trying to find Fenn’s treasure: Randy Bilyeu, 54, Jeff Murphy, 53, Pastor Paris Wallice, Eric Ashby, 31, and Michael Sexson, 58.
Bilyeu was found dead in New Mexico’s back country in 2016. Murphy’s body was found in Yellowstone National Park in 2018, after he’d disappeared there in 2017.
In 2017, Wallice’s body was found in northern New Mexico, while Ashby’s remains were found in Colorado.
Sexson died in March 2020 while in Dinosaur National Monument, along the Utah-Colorado border.
Fenn faced criticism follow each of the treasure hunters’ deaths, but declined to call off the search.
Instead, in June 2017, he made it a point to warn treasure hunters to stay safe during their search.
‘The treasure chest is not under water, nor is it near the Rio Grande River. It is not necessary to move large rocks or climb up or down a steep precipice, and it is not under a man-made object,’ Fenn wrote on a blog devoted to the search.
‘Please remember that I was about 80 when I made two trips from my vehicle to where I hid the treasure. Please be cautious and don’t take risks.’
A 2018 treasure hunter shows off a Wyoming map, showing areas he’d previously searched whie looking for Fenn’s treasure
In an interview in 2018, Fenn explained why he decided to hide the bounty.
‘I had several motives,’ Fenn said. ‘First of all, we were going into a recession – lots of people losing their jobs. I wanted to give some people hope. Despair was written all over the newspaper headlines.
‘And secondly, we’re an overweight society – I think not only in this country, but the world,’ said Fenn, who ran a successful Santa Fe art gallery with his wife for 17 years.
‘So I wanted to get the kids away from their electronic gadgets … and out into the sunshine, out into the mountains, hiking, fishing, picnicking – and anything but the couch. Get out of the game room.’
The idea came to him after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1988 and given a 20 percent survival rate.
‘I went through all of the emotions like everybody else does – denial, anger, all of those things,’ said Fenn, who has two daughters with his wife.
‘But then, after a week or so, I told myself: ‘Okay – if I’ve got to go, who says I can’t take it with me?’ I had a bunch of stuff, and I had so much fun collecting it over 75 years, why not give somebody else the same opportunity that I had?
‘I mean, I’m not going to miss these things. My family has been cared for. And so I got this beautiful little treasure chest; I gave $25,000 for it, and I started. My problem was, I wanted it to be valuable, but I also wanted it to be survivable, also. That boils down to gold, essentially, and precious gems.’
He began assembling a cache that included ‘hundreds and hundreds of gold nuggets.’
He added: ‘I’ve given to charity, and everybody else has, too. That’s been done. I wanted to do something that would last. I wanted to introduce the Rocky Mountains to people – flatlanders – that’d go back over and over again. I mean, if I gave to a charity, that’d be the end of it.
‘A 79 or 80 year old man went to that hiding place twice in one afternoon. There’s no point climbing up to the top of the mountain or hiking 20 miles looking for the treasure.’
‘I didn’t expect it to catch fire like it has, but I think 350,000 people have been looking for the treasure,’ Fenn told DailyMail.com in 2018. ‘Of course, it’s been eight years, too; some of them go back multiple times.’
The treasure seekers who have died while hunting Fenn’s bounty
Randy Bilyeu, pictured, was found dead in the wilderness west of Santa Fe
At least five people have died while searching for the treasure. Police officials had publicly implored Fenn to end the treasure hunt, saying it is a danger to public safety.
Sexson, 53, from Deer Park, and his companion, an unnamed 65-year-old man from Thornton, had set out in March this year to look for the riches in a remote section of Dinosaur National Monument – the same area where the pair of adventurers had gotten trapped in the snow in late February and had to be rescued.
On this occasion, by the time rescuers tracked down the two treasure hunters, who had been reported missing four days earlier, Sexson had died. His companion, who was said to be wearing more weather-appropriate gear, survived the ordeal and was airlifted to safety.
Jeff Murphy, 53, was found dead in Yellowstone National Park
Bilyeu went missing in January 2016 and was found dead in July.
His body was discovered by workers along the Rio Grande, and an autopsy could not determine cause of death.
Bilyeu’s ex-wife has publicly stated her belief that the Fenn Treasure is a hoax.
Murphy, 53, of Batavia, Illinois was found dead in Yellowstone National Park on June 9, 2017 after falling about 500 feet down a steep slope.
The investigation by Yellowstone officials into Murphy’s death was kept private, but KULR-TV obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request in February 2018.
The investigative report reveals Murphy’s wife told park authorities that Murphy was looking for the treasure when she called to report him missing.
Pastor Paris Wallace
Eric Ashby, 31, was found dead in Colorado’s Arkansas River
Wallace, of Grand Junction, Colorado, told family members that he was searching for a buried treasure, but he failed to show up for a planned family meeting on June 14, 2017. His car was found parked near the Taos Junction Bridge and his body was found 5 to 7 miles downstream along the Rio Grande.
Ashby, 31, was found dead in Colorado’s Arkansas River on July 28, 2017.
Friends and family state that he had moved to Colorado in 2016 to look for the treasure, and was last seen on June 28 rafting on the river 10 to 15 miles upstream from where his body was found. The raft overturned, and Ashby had been missing since that time.
Sexson, 53, from Deer Park, and his companion, an unnamed 65-year-old man from Thornton, had set out in March to look for the riches in a remote section of Dinosaur National Monument.
By the time rescuers tracked down the two treasure hunters, who had been reported missing four days earlier, Sexson had died. His companion, who was said to be wearing more weather-appropriate gear, survived the ordeal and was airlifted to safety.